"Where there is no vision the people perish."
Gloria Guard, President of People's Emergency Center wins the 2004 Philadelphia Award
PHILADELPHIA—Gloria Guard, President of People's Emergency Center (PEC) and recent recipient of the prestigious Philadelphia Award, has devoted her life to social justice and the public interest. Guard is a relentless advocate for the inclusion of impoverished inner city residents into the mainstream of our economic and social fabric. She believes that Philadelphia's most vulnerable citizens should have the best possible housing, education, jobs, social services and technology. To this end, she builds partnerships, shares resources and provides leadership and encouragement to neighborhood groups, social service agencies, businesses, local and national political leaders, and--perhaps most important to her--students and young people, who will embody the principles of equity, opportunity and social justice well beyond her lifetime.
PEC's history of innovative and successful "firsts" reflects Guard's pioneering spirit. PEC boasts the first on-site case management program for homeless families; the first model parent-child education program in a shelter; the first program to successfully transition homeless families to homeownership; and the first "one-stop" service center to help homeless and low-income mothers move from welfare to work. In partnership with the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare, PEC piloted E-Assist (one of the first programs of its kind in the country), which allows participants to submit paperwork to the welfare department via email, saving them hours each month that used to be spent meeting with staff at government agencies.
Guard established PEC's Community Development Corporation (PECCDC) in 1992, as a catalyst for change in PEC's West Philadelphia neighborhood. PECCDC provides a wide range of neighborhood preservation, community building, and commercial development programs and projects to transform West Powelton into a "Community of Choice." Guard attracted over $20 million in capital investments to help revitalize the neighborhood--converting 80 vacant properties into over 100 units of housing, recreation space and four social service facilities.
Recognizing the role technology plays in creating opportunities, PECCDC implemented the Digital Inclusion Program, distributing100 computers with wireless Internet access to neighborhood residents. The project improves the technological literacy of low-income families and increases their access to the information and tools they need to overcome barriers to family stability and self-sufficiency.
Guard's commitment to innovation has earned PEC a national reputation as a model program for homeless families, as well as a visit from President George W. Bush in 2002. Guard parlayed that visit into a national advocacy victory--garnering a pledge from President Bush to change the welfare rules to allow women to receive work credit for holidays and sick days, which became official when it was put in writing several months later.
Widely recognized as one of the region's most knowledgeable and compassionate advocates for the homeless, Guard recently spearheaded a year-long advocacy campaign that opened 300 housing opportunities for homeless families living in Philadelphia shelters. In a historic first, the Philadelphia Housing Authority (PHA) entrusted service providers (through the Blueprint to End Homelessness coalition) with management of PHA's permanent housing placement process, setting in motion a new system for permanent housing placement that is predictable, affordable and enhanced by service provision to each client.
Guard's commitment to a brighter future for Philadelphia guides her work as a teacher and mentor. She is an adjunct faculty member at the University of Pennsylvania's Fels Institute of Government, School of Design/City Planning and College of General Studies.
Guard holds Master's degrees in Social Work and in Law & Social Policy from Bryn Mawr College. She received the 2001 Fannie Mae Fellowship to attend Harvard's JFK School of Government. She was honored for her stalwart advocacy of the homeless by the Please Touch Museum's Great Friend to Kids Award (2004), United Way's Citizen of the Year Award (2001), the Philadelphia Bar Foundation's Louis D. Apothaker Award (2000), the Girl Scouts' Take the Lead Award (2001), and the Women's Way Voices of Vision Award (1996).
Guard is the proud grandmother of three grandsons.